Where have all the collars gone?

This is a picture of the 21st-century male: dingy, faded T-shirt, often a dull prison-gray, sometimes white, over long, baggy shorts, usually of faded denim or khaki. The shirt is untucked, and if the man has a big belly, the shirt hangs out in space, emphasizing the belly. The other male look is the baggy athletic clothing outfit: long, loose shorts of some shiny material and big, sloppy shirts with numbers on them. Even worse are sweat pants or pajama pants in public.
The overall effect is one of slovenly drabness. If the man wears a hat, it is a baseball cap. The shirt and the hat declare the wearers’ attitude or favorite vehicle or sports team in faded letters or pictures. Nowadays shirts and denim pants are sold brand new in faded colors, and sometimes the pants come with holes already installed. I’m picking on men, but many women practice the same lack of fashion.
Entering the Stark County Courthouse one day, I followed two young men through the security checkpoint. The men wore the uniform of their age group: sloppy T-shirts and baggy shorts about five sizes too big that required a hand to hold them up. I was impressed when the security officer told one that his pants must stay up in the courtroom and when he told the other no cell phone or he would be told to leave. It’s nice to know that some people still enforce rules of civility, which shouldn’t need enforcing in the first place. What happened to self respect and concern about one’s appearance? Casual Fridays of the 1990s have surrendered to the decade of disheveled dishabille, when people sport in public what previously served as pajamas and underclothing.
People don’t want to be bothered to wear decent clothes. In an article a few weeks back about dress codes instituted at an office, an employee complained that as long as she does her job, it shouldn’t matter how she dresses. But it wasn’t that long ago that dress codes were enforced. I hated wearing a tie in the early 1990s and was delighted when the tie rule was abandoned, but we were still expected to wear decent clothes even when ties were no longer required.
Kids no longer dress up for school, but they’re only imitating their parents. When I was a child, after school I changed from my school clothes to my play clothes. It especially felt good during the first couple weeks of school, when daytime temperatures were still hot, to change to shorts after wearing my dressy school slacks and shirt. Now, kids need not change to play clothes after school because they wear them to school. In the school pictures from my childhood the girls wore dresses and boys wore dressy slacks and shirts, some with ties, for their pictures. Now the kids all wear T-shirts and baggy pants and the same for special events.
The T-shirt habit has become an epidemic, and schools, businesses and civic organizations issue T-shirts for every little event. Bank tellers wear T-shirts during special promotions, schools issue T-shirts for special programs, and nonprofit members sport T-shirts during their fundraisers. I’m not saying that T-shirts are wrong in every situation, although I don’t wear them, just that I find them sloppy and unprofessional in many settings. I also have no need to advertise my beliefs or favorite beer on my clothing. I would rather discuss my favorite beer (Sam Adams) than wear the shirt (sometimes I inadvertently wear the beer on my shirt), and I prefer to discuss beliefs with friends rather than proclaim them to strangers.
The ill-kempt look has even invaded our military, who wear their camouflage fatigues to Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. Recently I saw a photo of a general wearing his fatigues while escorting a high-ranking government official on a tour. I don’t want to see military people wearing fatigues at a formal ceremony. Save the camouflage for the field and wear your dress uniform when attending functions meant to show respect.
I probably insulted almost everyone I know, but I don’t mean to. It’s just that my deep immersion in the past makes me keenly aware of the differences between then and now, and the more I study the 18th and 19th centuries, the more I dislike clothing, architecture and music of the 21st century. So if you’re still talking to me, call or write to me and I’ll direct you toward some historical clothing catalogs.

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